May 12, 2017
A Silent Voice was a Japanese manga series written and illustrated by Yoshitoki Ōima. Its story was first published in February 2011, then later serialized from August 2013 to November, 2014. Last year, it was made into anime film produced by Kyoto Animation, directed by Naoko Yamada and written by Reiko Yoshida. Futoshi Nishiya did the character designs and Kensuke Ushio wrote the musical score.
Deaf and misunderstood, new student Shoko Nishimaya was bullied by her classmates in 6th grade. The worst bully of them all was Shoya Ishida, who teased her odd vocal tone, threw her notebooks into water, and even pulled off her hearing aids. When Nishimiya was transferred out by her mother, everyone blamed and shunned Ishida. This causing him to become a social outcast, withdrawing from any social contact for several years, until he dared to seek out Nishimiya again.
I know that I am not really the target audience of this anime film. I only watched this to accompany my manga-fan daughter, who really looked forward to its local release. For me, this story of unending and, at time, unbearable teenage angst was presented so slowly with a pace so languid, I may have nodded off in a few parts, without really missing too much.
I cannot fathom how a deaf child could be bullied so badly by her classmates. It was just too cruel and very disturbing to watch. How could other kids just tolerate the brutality of the bully? And that male teacher, so lazy and apathetic! This bullying part was just one of the reasons why this film needs parental guidance.
Suicide was a topic twice. One as a passing mention only. The second one is a frank attempt that seemed to come out of nowhere. Since I did not see this happening, this well-executed scene for me was the one that really jolted me out of the lull I was in. Kids should know that suicide should never be an option, however big they think their problem is.
I also could not figure out the odd behavior and inter-relationships among their set of friends, especially the girls. This girl with straight black hair Ueno -- why was she such a meanie? This girl with light tan hair and glasses Kawai -- why was she so inconsistent? This girl with very short hair Sahara -- why did she think herself a coward? Nishimiya's tomboyish sister Yuzuro -- why was she hiding inside that playground apparatus?
Fortunately, there was one consistently delightful character in all this -- Nagatsuka, an obese boy with stiff curly hair who considered Ishida his best and only friend. The screen gets a relief from all the depressing anxiety because of his comically refreshing presence. His clingy behavior though can be too creepy, but he is cute nevertheless.
Being a 7-volume long manga originally, there have been parts about these characters and their motivations which would have suffered in terms of detail when translated into this 2-hour long anime form. Fans may know how to fill in the blanks because they have read the book, but first-time viewers will get puzzled by what seemed to be missing frames which rendered some plot points confusing. Manga fans may rate it higher, but for me, 5/10.